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Abstract Montage in Persona

by Alexander Chase

This is the abstract opening sequence of Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film Persona. The sequence begins with a imagery of film equipment and projectors, cross cutting between images of the equipment and seemingly the images projected by that same projector: tenuously displaying unity of time and space and implying a direct relation between shots, although this is ruptured by a brief shot of an erect penis.  This unity is further disrupted, by a series of seemingly unrelated images as the camera pushes into another screen within the frame: a tarantula abstractly moving on a field of white, a sheep being slaughtered, several hands being nailed, a textured surface-which slowly dissolves into a still of a forest, with the texture of the former offering its texture to the latter. This is followed by a close up of a fence, followed by a medium shot of the same image, only now with a pile of dirty snow.  After this, there is a series of extreme close-ups of faces, feet and hands and then on to a longer shot of a young boy reading Michail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time. He then proceeds to caress a screen with images of the film's main characters: Alma the Nurse and Elisabet the Actress. The sequence introduces some abstract themes, such as sacrifice, innocence and decay, but also works on affective (erect penis, tarantula, textures) and materialist (demystification of cinematic illusion by exposing the mode of production and materiality of the medium) registers.  Unlike most Bergman films, this opening sequence functions in both form and content to instill a Verfremsdungeffekt (distancing effect) between the cinematic text and the spectator, reinforcing the major theme of existential alienation that permeates the film. This aspect of the sequence is also an element of Modernist film-making.

Opening of Persona: Thematic Montage

The opening abstract montage of Persona

from Persona (1966)
Creator: Ingmar Bergman
Posted by Alexander Chase